Bonds run deep for UConn's Stewart, Syracuse's Sykes
Whether it is through USA Basketball (or the Canadian national team program in Kia Nurse's case), national-level high school all-star games or in AAU circles, there are certainly plenty of friendships formed for UConn players from the past, present and future.
However, the relationship between UConn star Breanna Stewart and Brittney Sykes is stronger than most. They not only were teammates on the powerhouse Philadelphia Belles AAU program but spent time hanging out with each other's family before ever getting to college. Now they are set to meet up in the national championship game making for an intriguing story angle for sure.
When Sykes suffered not one but two torn ACLs during her time at Syracuse, Stewart was always picking up the phone to send her best wishes. Sykes returned the favor when Stewart was leading UConn to national titles in each of her first three seasons. Now they will share the court and some of the spotlight on the biggest stage.
"It will be fun," Stewart said. "My relationship with her is like no other. I've known her since ninth grade and we played AAU together, USA Basketball, and other high school activities we either played with or against each other. I've been in constant contact with her throughout her entire career because that's what friends do.
"When she went through what she went through (multiple ACL injuries) the past two seasons before this year, I was definitely there for her. You never want to wish a major injury upon anyone the first time, obviously. I knew she was going to come back and really fight and push through that adversity. She's gone through that and not allowed it to dictate what was going to happen in her future took a lot of courage. The fact that she's helped lead her team to the national championship game when just last year she wasn't playing shows a lot about her and her willingness to not give up."
There was a time when the two talked about playing together in college before they went in a different direction.
"The relationship we had, she could have come here or I could have gone there," Sykes said. "We decided to part ways, I think it was the best for us. We both went on different paths, on different journeys. Throughout college we call each other constantly, text each other, check on each other. Some games when she is getting barked at by Coach Auriemma, some games when I am getting barked at by Coach Q (Quentin Hillsman). We have always called each other, make sure we are OK."